by Diane Carter
If you want to make money selling sports cards or other collectibles online, you will need to figure out how to keep customers coming back for more. Repeat customers are the heart of any online business. And, with so many sellers on eBay and other sites, collectors have lots of choices when it comes to spending their hard earned dollars.
Let’s take a look at a few of the things you can do to stay ahead of the competition:
1. Be honest
This might sound like a no-brainer but the truth is, in spite of efforts to make the internet a safe place to do business, there are still people out there who are ready to cheat you. There are people who will sell you a fake card or phony autograph.
Most sellers online are legitimate people who love buying and selling cards as much as you do, and always dealing with customers honestly will give you the repeat customers you desire. “I trust you” is no little thing in the world of online businesses. Do everything you can to deal honestly with every sale.
2. The customer is always right
This may be a hard thing to accept but it will do a lot in the way of gaining you repeat customers. It’s hard, because just between us, the customer is not always right. And, not only that, some are just downright aggravating. They might tell you that you didn’t answer their question quick enough. Or, maybe they wanted free shipping or a quantity discount. Maybe they didn’t agree with your grading of the card. Perhaps, they spent too much money on a baseball card and the spouse is upset. They want to return it now.
We all know human beings can be difficult to deal with, especially when money is involved. But if you can take their comments and actions with the attitude that your business is to respect and serve the customers, you are most likely to have their repeat business. After all, that $200 card you took back (even though you had a no-returns policy) might eventually lead to $500 or $1000 a year in future card sales.
To some people, really, there is nothing worse than buying a card of their favorite player and then waiting for it to come. It’s much like when you were a kid and you ran to the mailbox every day to see if your package was there or not. We may be adults now but we still want our cards yesterday. Whenever possible, ship your packages out within 24 hours of the purchase.
Your buyers will get their products quickly and be happy to come back the next time they need something. Although the profit margin on sports cards is often very low, it’s best not to try and make up dollars on the shipping. If it costs you $1.38 or $1.59 to send out a card, don’t charge $6 shipping and handling. Overcharging on postage is a good way to lose business, not repeat it.
4. Get bookmarked
Do whatever you can to get bookmarked on your buyer’s computer. This is a simple action that can reap big rewards. It can be as easy as inserting text on your web page asking viewers to bookmark the page. Once you are on someone’s bookmark list, they will visit more often. It also speeds up the process of purchasing sports cards. Less time spent trying to locate your site allows more browsing of your inventory and can translate into more page views and card sales.
5. Use buying incentives
A good way to keep customers coming back is to reward them for their business. One of the best ways is to give a discount off their next order or include something for free with orders. One of the deals I like the most is a free jersey or bat card with a $20 purchase.
It’s nice to be appreciated for the business you have given an online card shop. Another excellent incentive is to offer free shipping if you buy a certain dollar amount, such as $15 or more. It makes it easier to add on those extra cards you wanted without breaking the bank. The more you make your buyers feel wanted and appreciated, the more they will come back.
6. Establish contact with buyers in between purchases
Many people who buy merchandise online don’t even remember who they bought it from. This is especially true on eBay. Make a mailing list of your customers and send them emails or flyers about what’s currently in stock, upcoming sales, and encourage them to visit your website or store often. Don't flood their inbox and a personal note is even more effective. A monthly newsletter is an excellent way to maintain contact with your customers if they'll opt in. Be sure you give them a reason to want your newsletter. Always respect privacy by giving people a way to opt out of the mailings if they wish.
7. Include a thank you note in every order
Many people think including a thank you note is going overboard. After all, it takes time and you know how crazy things can be trying to get all of your card orders out in a timely manner. But saying “thank you” is an important part of doing business. If you have a brick and mortar store, you wouldn’t consider not saying thank you at the checkout. The same is true of online purchases.
It is recognizing that you appreciate a customer’s business. Just packing a copy of the invoice into the envelope or box is not enough. You don’t need official thank you notes--it works to just write thanks on the customer’s receipt. In fact, handwriting is the perfect personalization to get repeat buyers.
8. Answer emails within 24 hours for sure and quicker if possible
If someone has a question about a card, they don’t want to wait three days for you to take the time to email them back. Check and answer all of your emails at least once a day--two or three times a day is even better if you can manage it. It leads directly to more sales and repeat customers. Be brief, but friendly.
9. Write quality descriptions and always include a photo of the card when listing
One of the things I find most frustrating about selling cards online is taking photos of the cards and uploading them to the website. But, if you want to get and retain collectors, you need to be able to show them photos of the card or piece of memorabilia they are buying. This is particularly important with vintage cards.
The description you write should also be professional and accurate. It’s good if you can say something about the player or the card in the description. There are untold numbers of cards for sale online with no descriptions at all and no photos. “Card is good” or “card is NM” does not really give the buyer enough information.
You will always have repeat customers if the card they receive is exactly as described and sold at a fair price. Don’t make a card sound better than it is just to get more money for it. It may work once but that buyer will be gone forever.
The people who are able to have a good business selling cards online are the ones who are consistent and accurate when grading their cards. It is better to put a borderline card in a lower category than a higher one. Someone expecting a near mint card is always going to remember that you didn’t provide one. It’s the memory that you provided exactly what they expected that will have buyers coming back for more.